Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Buying Motor Insurance Online

An Spailpín Fánach has been having a little trouble renewing his car insurance online. So much so that I've taken the unusual step of email the company to make my distress clear. I cut and paste the email below for your information, but I'm afraid I was too yellow to put in the name of the company - hence the "~~~~~~~." I shall keep you updated with developments.

To Whom It May Concern:

I have just undergone a very distressing experience with your ~~~~~~~ website and one of your customer service representatives. As I'm sure you're committed to the highest standards of customer service, I thought your distress at my suffering would be tempered by your resolve to never let this happen to another of your customers. As such, I compose.

My motor insurance falls due for renewal in the second half of September. As a man who plans ahead, and a man who was possibly maddened by your relentless television advertising, I visited your ~~~~~~~ website in order to find myself a quotation. I was surprised not to see a "renewal" option on your home page (I am currently insured with your company since last year), but I bore its absence bravely and ploughed on regardless.

I entered my details, found a quote I found reasonable, and pressed on to the purchase page. On the purchase page I noticed that you charge an extra-ordinary 2.5% extra on purchases made by credit card.

I thought this remarkably cheeky, if I may make so bold as to say so - one of the chief reasons for shopping with your company is the convenience of credit card shopping online, but there are few enough things that are so convenient that I will happily pay extra for that convenience. Hardship can be good for the soul, you know. There's more to life than sheer convenience.

Distressed at this 2.5% charge (for which there is no explanation on the site, by the way - there is a link for an explanation but nothing happens when you click it, thus rendering the link rather superfluous), I clicked the option to pay by cash or cheque.

I have forgotten whatever confirmation screen this may have generated, but it did generate an email, which thanked me for buying online with your company. This caused another alarm bell to ring at the back of my mind - for instance, if I were to stroll down to one of Bill Cullen's Renault showrooms and select one of those lovely Meganes, do you think old Bill would consider it bought before my cheque had crossed his desk? No; I don't bloody think so either.

I read your email further, and I saw that you wanted written proof that my no-claims bonus is as I had said it was - that is to say, unblemished. I have no means of proving this, so I took the step of ringing your customer service helpline.

Which turned out to be source of my greatest distress. I outlined my story to your CS Rep, who replied to my tale of confusion in the online thickets with the question: "Why did you decide to buy insurance online in the first place?"

A good question, as I look back. Sadly, it didn't seem such a good question when he raised it. If anything, it seemed downright rude. I replied that I must have been fooled by advertising (you do run a lot of ads, you know). What I should have said of course that I can buy whatever I damned well please online, this not being Red China, but we never think of these bons mots until after the event, do we?

Your Customer Service Representative's next step was to chastise me for my haste. Why I didn't I wait until I had received your letter? he demanded. If your CS Rep is an educated man, he may have considered me an online-purchasing Othello, who bought not wisely but too well; however, I am not sure what standards you expect in this regard. Either way, your CS Rep thought that I should have stayed home and waited until I had heard from you, in the same way that Madam Butterfly waited for Captain Pinkerton. And we all know what happened to her.

To be honest, it never occurred to me that you would write to me. I am in a minority in this 21st Century after Christ in that I still enjoy reading verse and poetry; I am in a higher demographic percentile in associating September with All-Ireland Finals rather than the receipt of letters pertaining to car insurance, but I am pretty damned sure I stand shoulder to shoulder with the vast majority of the nation in saying that I do not generally expect to be the recipient of an epistle from my car insurance company for the simple reason that I have no idea any more than the man on the moon how the car insurance companies in this state go about their business. It is a mystery to me, a mystery the Byzantine depths and twists of which make Sir Winston's Churchill's remarks about riddles inside enigmas child's play by comparison.

However, as I am liable to criminal prosecution for not having my motor car insured, I shall try and unwrap my current riddle pertaining to my motor insurance. Right now, even though no money has changed hands, I am insured for next year on my car (and guess what? The price I found online on your own website is cheaper than the one you were going to quote me! Well fancy that). I have printed your proposal form, and once I receive your quote, this quote will include the written proof of my No Claims Bonus. I will return you this No Claims Bonus written proof, with the form and my cheque. But come this time next year, our bonds will be broken. From here on in, I shall be buying my motor insurance from a human being. It is possible that I will have to pay a little extra, but no harm. Hardship, as I remarked earlier, is good for the soul and there is the chance that next year, when I buy my motor insurance from a human being instead of a website, that human being may be glad of my custom, something I did not sense at any time today from my dealings with ~~~~~~~.

Have a beautiful day.

With very best regards,

An Spailpín Fánach.